Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas in "Theodora Goes Wild"

Theodora Goes Wild (1936) is an American screwball comedy directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas. The supporting cast includes Thomas Mitchell, Spring Byington, Thurston Hall, and Robert Greig.

Theodora Lynn (Dunne) lives with her two old-maid aunts Mary and Elsie Lynn (Elisabeth Risdon and Margaret McWade respectively). Her aunts, the pillars of small-town Lynnfield, Connecticut, have no idea that their church organ-playing, Sunday school-teaching niece is the author of a scandalous best-selling novel, The Sinner

Theodora does her best to keep her secret. Her pen name for the novel is Caroline Adams and her publisher (Hall) has helped keep her secret. But when artist Michael Grant (Douglas) tries to pry Theodora/Caroline's secret out of her things begin to unravel. 

Will Michael reveal that Caroline Adams is really Theodora Lynn, scandalizing her and her aunts and the whole town of Lynnfield? Or will Theodora successfully navigate her publishing success keeping her true identity secret?

Margaret McWade, Elisabeth Risdon, and Irene Dunne

Robert Boleslawski (1889 - 1937) was a Polish actor, theatre, and film director. He came to the United States and co-founded The American Laboratory Theatre in New York. His students included Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman. All three of his students were founding members of the Group Theatre. Boleslawski's style of teaching acting was the beginning of what would eventually develop into Method Acting. Boleslawski directed many of the top stars of the 1930s including Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Robert Montgomery, William Powell, and Joan Crawford. Some of his popular movies include The Painted Veil (1934), Clive of India (1935), Three Godfathers (1936), The Garden of Allah (1936), and The Last of Mrs. Cheney (1937).

Irene Dunne (1898 –1990) was an American actress and singer who was one of the most popular movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She is probably best remembered for her comedic roles, though she first became famous playing in melodramas like Back Street (1932) and Magni and Magnificent Obsession (1935). In fact, Dunne was so popular as a star of melodramas that she was dubbed “The Queen of the Weepies” by the press. Her comedic breakout performance was in Theodora Goes Wild (1936) which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She would go on to make other comedy classics like The Awful Truth (1937) where she earned another Best Actress nod, and My Favorite Wife (1940). Dunne and Grant were one of the most popular screen teams in movie history. All three of their films were critical and box office successes. Dunne earned a total of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress but never won a competitive Oscar. The fact that the Motion Picture Academy never awarded her an Honorary Academy Award for her body of work is a travesty to me.

Melvyn Douglas (1901 – 1981) was an American actor. Douglas was a popular leading man during the 1930s working with some of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies including Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, and Merle Oberon. He won two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards late in his career for Hud (1963) and Being There (1979). Douglas’s last film role was in Ghost Story (1981) co-starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astair.

To watch the movie on YouTube, click on the link below.

Theodora Goes Wild trivia:
  • Marion Davies and Carole Lombard were the first choices for the role.
  • This was Dunne's first comedic film role; she was so against doing this film that she took a two-month trip to Europe in the hopes that someone else would be cast.
  • Irene Dunne received her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for this film.
  • The success of the film and Dunne's performance made Dunne one of the screen's great comediennes.
  • The volcano hat that Dunne wears at the end of the film is similar to the one Greta Garbo buys in Ninotchka (1939) also starring Melvyn Douglas.
  • The year 1936 was a great year for screwball comedy. My Man Godfrey and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town were also released that year.
Melvyn Douglas and Irene Dunne

Why watch this film?
  • You see the emergence of Irene Dunne as one of the great screen comediennes.
  • The film features some of the best-supporting actors working in film at the time.
  • It's one of the all-time best screwball comedies ever made.
  • You'll see all of Dunne's talents--her acting, singing, and piano/organ playing.
  • Melvyn Douglas was one of the most popular leading men of the 1930s, and this film is a perfect example of why.

To join the discussion on April 11, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions:
  1. Was Theodora the only character that needed to go wild?
  2. Did you think the portrayal of small-town America was accurate?
  3. What did you think of Dunne's performance as Theodora? Was she convincing?
  4. How do you think this film stacks up against the other screwball comedies you've seen?
  5. Did you have a favorite character actor?
  6. Did anything in the movie surprise you?


  1. Loved the trivia and the information on Boleslawski (I had no idea!) and Irene Dunne. I'm enjoying seeing this one again!

  2. It's a shame Boleslawski left us so soon. I would have loved to see how his directing style might have changed. Irene Dunne is a real favorite of mine. There was nothing she couldn't do. Just a tremendous talent. As always, thanks for stopping by!


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